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2003 - Saloni M swims East


Ali Alizadeh

Ali Alizadeh
is a 27 year-old agnostic, Melbourne-based writer of poetry, narrative and literary articles.

He has a B.A. with Honours and is currently completing a PhD at Deakin University. First book Elixir: a story in poetry published by Grendon Press in 2002. Interested in history, spirituality and dissent. Plays include Ireneís Inquisition (Melbourne Fringe Festival 2001) and Elixir (based on the book; Melbourne Fringe Festival 2003).

Has won a number of awards including the 2003 Hussen Benn Non-Fiction Award, the 2000 Verandah Literary Award, and the 1997 GUGC National Tertiary Art Prize. Current project: La Pucelle: the Epic of Joan of Arc. Influenced by ancient and medieval poets and mystics. Born in Iran and migrated to Australia at 15. Has worked as writing teacher, ESL tutor, proofreader and street performer.

For the Saloni M swims East event on Friday, December 5, he presented:

Your Monster, a poem that shows the links between imperialism, xenophobia and terrorism. It was read in conjunction with Abe and Dirk de Bruyn's film Cell. He also read from his own translation of Romeo and Juliet Deserted by Rahman Shiri.




Your Monster

You call me a barbarian.
I call you master.

You donít speak my language.
My words
are noise to your ears; my poems
are meaningless melodies.

Your poems
are masterpieces of literature.
Your clothes
constitute fashion; your homes
are architecture.

My house
was the hovel your tanks levelled;
my clothes
were rags. My beliefs
were crushed by your technology
because Iím a barbarian.

But I must understand your language.
O master, your words
are essential to my survival. I have to
put your goggles on my eyes
to see myself
as a dangerous alien with
incomprehensible language
and innate savagery

because youíre so civilised and meaningful.
You have the weapons
the tools for proving the logic
of your power. You wear clothes
that bolster your shoulders
and accentuate your height.

Me, Iím naked
and paraded as a prisoner
on your catwalks. Iíve been
defeated, dispossessed, and now
detained in the cages of your metropolis. I canít remember
if I ever had my own culture
because your powerful voice
has drowned out my memories. Your logic
proves that Iím a primitive
at the mercy of your civilisation.

Yes, I understand your language. Iíve been learning
the lexicon of my inferiority
from behind the bars. I now know
how to spell and pronounce
the terms of my slavery. Your shackles
are called freedom; your war-plan
is the Ďroad map to peaceí; your cluster bombs
are food parcels for my children. O master, I understand

what you want your filthy slave to be. I am
your barbarian, your terrorist;
your monster.

© Ali Alizadeh 2003.

from Romeo and Juliet Deserted by Rahman Shiri, translated by Ali Alizadeh

originally published in Bennett, Debbie et al (eds.). Verandah: Issue 18. Melbourne: Deakin University 2003.

In the morning I stayed in my bed and fantasised. I thought to myself ĎWhat am I going to do after getting up?í I could go to work or go to the park for a bit of exercise and then have a shower, a big breakfast and a kiss from my girlfriend. I was enjoying my fantasies before reminding myself that in the solitaries of the Juliet prison of the Refugee Detention Centre dreaming is an unforgivable crime. But thatís not why I couldnít rise from bed; I was waiting for the sound of the Chinese girlís laughter. I wanted to wake up to her noise because the sound of her laughter was so many things; it was love and freedom and lips and shower and a full breakfast and job and happiness andÖ

I couldnít eat the dry breakfast and, once I had given up on calling the golden girl, I climbed the bed and looked out through the small opening. I finally managed to see her. She was sitting next to a tree in a corner of the Juliet prisonís courtyard. Her face was downcast with hair covering it in a way that prevented me from seeing her eyes. I knew that she was probably still crying. I knew that her crying hadnít ceased since last night. I knew that her crying wouldnít cease for as long as we were stuck in this rot. Her crying wouldnít stop for as long as we were living in the realm of cruelties, atrocities and separations; for as long as the officials and guards, the Romeos, with their numbers and batons, imprisoned us in their Juliet. The golden girl was crying with my eyes. Her weeping will never stop.

Golden girl

in this cell

you became a garden


and in there, I rediscovered my dreams

you became a window

        open and wide

and in there, I reclaimed my vision.

You became a pulpit

facing the desert and the sun

and in there, I retrieved my life.

Golden girl

in this cell

my last sunset

was the time of your repose and mourning

although I know

theyíve set fire to the garden of your dreams

shut the windows of your eyes

planted thorns in the pulpit of your life

and you

are silent with sadness

burying me

with your dolls in the soil.

© Ali Alizadeh 2003.

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